This review is of the iPhone game, "Stick Golf", written by Jordan Schidlowsky.
In short, the aim is to hit a golf ball around a course, set out in 2D, in as a few shots as possible. The courses are not designed to be realistic, but instead require you to negotiate around the screen, past various obstacles such as cliff edges and water.
You work through the game by completing each course by par, or better, which then unlocks the next course. In total there are 16 different courses, a total of 144 holes as each has nine holes. There are four different course "packs", which have four levels each, and which are all included in the game's purchase price. The difficulty of the game increases as you progress through the game, although I found that some later levels were easier than some earlier ones.
If you're struggling to get through a course, to unlock the next one, then you can practice playing just one individual hole, so that you can find a better route through. The scoring system, which is just to unlock some minor extras, is a gold star for getting 10 under par, a silver star for getting 5 under par, or a bronze star for reaching par. If you want to make the game harder, you can turn the "wind option" on, but I always played in the easier mode!
I was fortunate to be able to get this game for free, during a period at the end of December 2010 when the game was reduced from its usual price of 59p. At the time of writing, the game is back to 59p again, but it might be worth watching out to see if it is free again for a while.
The sound in this game isn't great but is catchy enough, and the graphics are basic, but I found that they sufficed enough to enjoy playing. Controlling the game is easy, you direct the arrow where you want to hit the ball, then press the go button with the desired strength you want. It does become a little repetitive, but at least there are multiple courses.
In terms of difficulty, some courses can take a little while to play through. I found some of the courses with water hazards the most difficult as if you hit the ball into water, you get a penalty, which can soon mean you're over-par, and struggling to get your nine hole tally under par. I would suggest that children could play this game, but might become a little bored after a while.
I haven't received any updates to this game since I've had it, which is just a couple of weeks, but I noticed from reviews of the game on the iPhone that the game developers have been releasing extra courses for free.
I played this game on an iPhone 4, but the game developer states that it also works with an iPhone 3. The developer's web-site can be found at www.noodlecake.com. Since I got this game, I notice there is also an app called "Super Stick Golf", which is currently half price (normally 1.29 pounds) and claims to be a bigger version of the Stick Golf game.
Overall, I was kept amused by this game for a couple of hours, and it's a game that I've occasionally come back to. I haven't completed it yet, but have got some considerable way into it, so there's a lot of gameplay to be had. There are a few irritating courses which I enjoyed less than others, but overall, for 59p, I consider it to be really good value for money (or even better if you can get it for free too!).
Have you ever fancied playing golf, but don't have the money to buy all the expensive equipment, are too lazy to learn how to play the game or hate going outdoors? If so, this could be your lucky day since, for just 59p, Stick Golf for the iPhone allows you to play the sport from the comfort of your armchair.
Well. Sort of. Stick Golf is not really a serious golf simulation, but more akin to a game of crazy golf. You play holes across a series of 8 different courses (the next one is unlocked when you complete the previous one) and, as with normal golf, the aim is to get the ball into the hole. Standing in your way are a variety of hazards including hills, valleys and water features which must be negotiated along the way.
Each hole is spread over a series of screens and they range from easy ones which can be completed in just one shot, to the complex, where careful planning and several shots are needed to reach the hole successfully. As with ordinary golf, the aim is to complete each hole using the smallest number of shots possible.
Presentation for this game minimalistic, but effective. As the name implies, your character is a little stick figure; the backgrounds are solid blocks of black which define the hills and valleys of the course; and the sky is also a solid colour. This does mean the game is not much to look at. Initially, this doesn't matter as it complements the simple game play. A game this straightforward doesn't need fancy presentation and flashy graphics - it works just as well (arguably better) without such distractions.
Slightly more disappointing is the sound, which takes minimal to extremes and makes the Spectrum ZX81 look almost noisy by comparison. Pretty much the only sound in the entire game is a bleep which sounds when you make a menu selection or putt the ball. A game like this doesn't need sophisticated sound or lots of background music, but it does need more that it has. The curiously silent game leaves Stick Golf severely lacking in atmosphere, as though you are playing golf in the vacuum of space.
The game is initially fun to pick up and play. The opening holes are pretty simple and ease you into the game, giving you the chance to master the basic controls. No matter what you feel about real golf, there's a strong sense of achievement when you successfully negotiate the course and get the ball in the hole, so there's an instant hook into the game.
Unfortunately, this sense of fun is rather fleeting for a number of reasons. Firstly there is very little variety in the game. Obviously, each of the individual holes feature different design and layouts, which adds some variety as you have to think about how you are going to approach each new hole. Unfortunately, the level design is not the most inspired in the world and hitting your ball across the dull, barren landscape soon becomes repetitive. Although there are eight different courses (16 in total, since each can be played with or without wind) it's going to take a real effort of will to unlock and complete all of those. The initially simple and compelling rewarding game play soon becomes dull and working your way through each course soon becomes a chore.
The other problem lies in the design of the levels and the difficulty curve. Early holes are ridiculously easy and even on my first game I got a number of hole-in-ones. Yet, after just a few stages the difficulty is ramped up considerably, and this will leave you howling in frustration as you fail time and time again to complete a hole within the required number of shots. At this point, the game stops being fun and becomes annoying. I found it wasn't unusual to take 2-3 times the amount of shots needed for a hole, and just one bad hole pretty much scuppers any chance you have of finishing the course within the target number of shots, which, in turn, means you won't be able to unlock the next course and progress . Normally, this might spur me on to replay the levels until I cracked them. With Stick Golf, that sense of challenge was simply not there and once this sense of frustration kicks in, many gamers are likely to leave the game, never to return.
Part of the problem lies with the controls. Like so much else in the game, these initially appear simple and make it easy for anyone to simply pick the game up and play. A dotted line on the screen shows the current angle of your short, and this can be altered by pressing a left or right arrow. When you've got it in position, you hit the Go button, which will launch the power indictor. Tap the screen again to set your power and your little ball will fly off. Simple controls are a great boon to many games, as casual gamers don't need to remember ridiculous complex control combinations to make a simple shot. However, they haven't been very well implemented and don't offer any real degree of finesse over your shot. It can be particularly difficult to judge the amount of power needed to clear a particular hazard. In this respect, the game is very unforgiving: misjudging the power by just a tiny fraction can lead to you getting stuck for several shots before you finally clear that hazard and have to prepare to go through the whole process all over again with the next. As soon as you encounter this, Stick Golf rapidly becomes annoying.
Even if you can forgive these issues, there's not a great deal of longevity to the title. Even if you persevere, the eight available courses don't offer a great deal by way of long-term game play, and once you have completed them on Easy and Hard mode, the only challenge left is to better your score. To be honest, though, I suspect most gamers will have given up on this title long before they get to that stage.
Stick Golf could have been a fun little pick-up-and-play title. The basic presentation suits gives the game a nice old school appeal, but the repetitive game play and unforgiving controls make for a frustrating experience.
True, the game only costs 59p, so it's not exactly extortionate but there are far better games available for that price. Stick Golf has already been deleted from my iPhone, which probably tells you all you need to know.
© Copyright SWSt 2010